“This is going to continue to clog our criminal justice system and retraumatize victims.” – Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill, as quoted by KSL in an article published Nov. 16, 2021.
The KSL article looks at HB 227, which was passed by the Utah Legislature in 2021 to create certain procedural safeguards for a person charged with a violent crime when the available evidence establishes a prima facie case for self defense.
The requirement of a “prima facie” case for self defense means, in essence, that the person charged first has to show that there is evidence to support a belief that they were acting in self defense. If there is sufficient evidence of self defense, then a justification hearing is held at which the prosecutor must present clear evidence that convinces the court that the defendant was not acting in self defense. The prosecution is not required to meet a “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. But the evidence must be fairly clear if the government intends to force the case to a full jury trial.
If the evidence for self defense does not exist, then the procedural safeguards of the justification hearing are not triggered. The idea that these safeguards serve only to “retraumatize victims” is premised on a presumption that the alleged “victim” is in fact a true victim — in other words, a presumption that the defendant is guilty.
Do we still believe in the Constitutional principle that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty?
Our Constitution was written by people who believed that it was better to allow a few guilty people to go free than to allow the government to wrongfully convict an innocent person. A free society can survive, and even thrive, when there are guilty people who evade punishment. But the freedoms enjoyed in our society are in real jeopardy if we are willing to turn a blind eye when the government wrongfully convicts an innocent person.
Does our society still accept these ideas? Or have we become so accustomed to the freedoms we have enjoyed for so long that we no longer understand their value?
The safeguards put in place by the Constitution and by the legislature are intended to protect the rights of all people, both the innocent and the guilty. A fair judicial system is vital to ensuring that those protections are implemented and enforced. Our freedom depends on it.
Read the original KSL article here – https://www.ksl.com/article/50284891/its-not-working-ksl-investigates-unintended-consequences-of-new-utah-self-defense-law